Archive for February, 2012

How to Improve Your Ability to Sleep

I Can't Sleep112%. That’s a number I made up about how many people suffer from sleep problems. That’s a profoundly high number that, while entirely fabricated, shows definitively that people are simply not getting enough sleep anymore.

This is a real problem. Sleep is more than just a place to dream about pink goats and alfalfa sprouts. It’s an activity that is designed to help you create memories, think clearly, and cope with stressful situations. Without sleep, every hormone, enzyme, and blood vessel in your body works less efficiently, and ultimately your health and happiness both suffer. If you aren’t sleeping well, you need to be, because the stress you feel every day you don’t get enough sleep may be slowly but surely damaging your health.

What Causes Sleep Problems?

Sleep problems have a myriad of potential causes. The most likely cause is physical laziness. Human beings are smart animals with a great deal of energy, and unfortunately until Apple invents a computer you can use while you jog, we’re probably not getting less physically lazy any time soon.
But because we’re not burning off that energy, falling asleep – something that should be natural – becomes much more difficult. It’s not just your body either. Physical exertion tires your mind as well, so those racing and active thoughts that keep you awake may be there because you sit in front of a computer too long looking at Facebook.
Sleep issues can also be caused by too much coffee or drinking, too much anxiety, and too much stress that you experience during the day. All of these potential causes make it harder to guarantee any effective sleep treatment, but there are ways you can improve your ability to get a full night’s sleep every night and ultimately live with less stress and more happiness.

Potential Sleep Treatments

1. Sleep

“Thanks Ryan,” you said to yourself just now. “So you’re saying the solution to going to sleep is that I should go to sleep. Brilliant! Any stocks I should invest in?” But before you go about getting all sarcastic and mean, the reality is that one of the main issues preventing people from getting sleep is that they often ignore it. Your body responds to your behaviors, and if you ignore sleep, your body won’t bother doing it anymore.

Here’s a better example. Your body is trained to tell you when you’re full. It’s this natural response that prevents you from overeating, while still ensuring you’ve gotten enough nutrients. Yet there are many people that overeat. Why? Well, some theorists believe that those that overeat may have ignored their body’s “full” response, and eventually their body stopped bothering to tell them when they’re full. So they never feel full, and they keep eating, and ultimately they overeat and become unhealthy or overweight.

It’s the same thing with sleep. If you are constantly having nights out where you avoid sleep and ignore your feeling of being tired, you’ll find that your body stops bothering to tell you when you’re tired, and ultimately your ability to go to sleep suffers. Going to sleep earlier (even before you feel tired) and getting a restful night’s sleep can go a long way toward bringing that feeling back.

2. Exercise

Brilliant advice number two: Exercise. There are very, very few jobs these days that require any form of manual labor, and when they do they’re likely designed in such a way to minimize your exertion. This is bad. All throughout the day your body wants to burn a lot of energy, and yet you sit there at a computer or in an office and do nothing.

By the time you go to sleep, that energy is still there, and you’re not tired when you should be. So exercise more. Run around. Get frisky. Do things that make you use your physical energy. If you’re not fond of traditional exercise, then find a way to always be active. At the very least, walk in place when you watch TV. The more you do, the better it is for your ability to fall asleep.

3. Create a Very Boring Routine Before You Sleep

Human beings and dogs love routines. They love them. Routines represent comfort, and prepare your mind and body for what’s ahead.

It’s why bowlers have their own weird habits and superstitions before they bowl, and baseball players put their bat in the exact same place before they bat. These routines give them the comfort they need to do the next task, and their bodies respond accordingly.
You should create your own pre-sleep routine – a routine that is very long, very boring, and involves nothing that would create energy or keep you awake. That means no TV, no cell phone, no bright lights. You may even want to avoid reading or doing anything that involves a mental activity. Try to create a boring routine that takes you awhile and is the very last thing you do before you sleep.

For example, start by turning off all of the electronics and lights. Then consider doing other tasks, like checking all of the doors and making sure they’re locked, closing all of the windows, making sure the oven is off – even if you know all of these things to be true, do them anyway, in a specific order.

Essentially, this pre-sleep routine will tell your mind and body “Oh, I’m getting ready to sleep” and you’ll have an easier time relaxing and sleeping. You’ll need to do a routine like this for a long, long time for it to work, but it does help many people.

4. Keep a Journal By Your Bed

The human brain has a lot of strange habits. One of them has a tendency to keep people awake. I don’t think it has a name for it, but it should. We’ll call it “Mind Won’t Shush Up.” It occurs most often when you have stress or anxiety, but sometimes it occurs for no reason at all.

What happens is that you have a thought or two in your head that your brain wants to remember. Rather than simply create a memory and let you go to sleep, your brain keeps you awake to help you remember it.

Your brain is not very smart.

That’s why you need a way to take the thought out of your head, and tell your brain that it can shush up about it. You can do that with a thought journal. Every time you have a thought that you either don’t want to forget or can’t get rid of, take out the journal and write the thought down.

It sounds like such a small action, but the truth is that this little difference tells your brain that the memory is in a permanent place, and it doesn’t have to worry about it anymore. There’s no guarantee a new thought won’t enter your brain, but thought journals are a great way to avoid letting a nagging thought keep you from sleeping.

5. Keep Your Room Stress Free

Finally, there are only two things you should be worrying about in your room: Sleeping and making ze love. When it comes to being awake, anxious, and struggling to sleep, your location plays a significant role. If you’re constantly working in your room, on your cell phone talking to someone about life events, or fighting with your family, then your room won’t be associated with rest, and your brain will wake up the moment you try to lay down to sleep. If, on the other hand, you only use your room for sleep (and the occasional romance) your brain will associate your room with sleep.

Go to Sleep

Sleeping also begets more sleeping. When you sleep you experience less stress and anxiety, which helps you fall asleep. When you sleep restfully, you get tired at a more reasonable hour and wake up 8 hours later, rather than under-sleeping and oversleeping in a sleepless rhythm.

You need to get more sleep. With the above tips, you’ll be well on your way.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera had intense anxiety and depression that caused serious sleep issues. He writes about anxiety at www.calmclinic.com.

Getting Your Kids to Exercise

Kids these days are so much more interested in sitting in front of the television playing video games or watching their favorite shows or playing on the computer than they are in going outside and running around and riding bikes and getting exercise. It’s no secret, and in fact it’s contributed to part of America’s obesity problem.

But getting kids to be excited about exercising isn’t exactly easy. They have short attention spans, less endurance and less desire to exercise than adults. So how do you get them excited to get moving? Here are just a few ideas.

Lead By Example

If kids see their parents exercising, they’ll be more likely to get moving themselves. Make it a habit on your end to have a regular exercise routine, and make physical activities a part of your day as a family. Try to take the kids with you when you take the dog out for a walk or plan bike rides to a park for a healthy picnic or something.

You could even let your kids come with you to the gym once in a while. They’ll get to sit and watch how you work out, and they’ll be more inclined to follow your example. You should also try to play sports with your kids, whether it’s playing catch out in the yard or getting some tennis rackets and going to the tennis courts or even swimming with them. If you’re involved in it, they’ll stay excited about it.

Think Outside the Box

Not every child is going to enjoy organized sports as much as some parents would like them to. Think about other activities your child could do to stay active – think along the lines of judo or karate, dance, swimming or anything that’s more individualized. Your child may find that they like personal attention better than being part of a team, which is fine as long as what they’re doing gets them moving!

The point is to let your kids have fun if your goal is to hold their interest in an activity. Keep trying different things until you and your child both find one that works.

Make It Sound “Cool”

Kids are so concerned with being cool that they’ll do anything they think will make them “cooler” amongst their peers. Familiarize your children with some famous athletes in sports that they seem to show interest in. Make sure they know just how awesome these professional athletes are. Before you know it, your kid will be running around everywhere saying they want to be like whoever their favorite professional is. That’s a good thing.

When kids see someone successful and “cool” doing what they do, they’ll be more likely to stick to it. It will also help if you talk to the parents of your child’s friends and try to get their children involved in the same or similar activity. This will make your child feel more like they fit in and like what they are doing is actually making them cooler.

Provide Positive Feedback

No matter how much you know about whatever sport your child decides to play (if they choose one at all), don’t go to their practices or games to dissect every little move they make and tell them where they didn’t do the best job at something. For example, if you played soccer in high school and in college and were a defensive star, don’t go to your child’s games to tell them how poorly they played on defense.

Instead, approach every practice and every game in a positive manner. Even if your child just runs around after the ball and never touches it, applaud his or her effort anyway. Consistent encouragement will keep your child engaged in what they are doing. Never discourage your child in any physical activity unless you want them to end up back on the couch in front of the television.

Use Props

Ah, the beauty of a giant piece of equipment called a trampoline! You’d be shocked at how much energy jumping on a trampoline requires. Send your kids outside to play on it – they’ll have a blast and get a solid amount of physical activity in at the same time.

A swing set is another beautiful piece of lawn equipment. Kids of all ages love to swing, and the constant pumping of the legs and pulling on the chains can actually be a great workout for your little ones.

Even installing a swimming pool in your backyard will help get your kids more active. It will quickly become their favorite activity in the summertime, and if they love it enough at home, you could even consider taking it one step further and enlisting them in swim lessons to build their interest in the sport.

Getting kids to be active doesn’t have to mean sending them outside to run around in circles in the yard all day (unless, of course, that’s what they want to do!). You can think of creative ways to involve the whole family in being active and encourage your child to continue doing what it is they enjoy doing. You’ll have a healthier, more active child in no time!

Jackie Ryan is a freelance writer and loves children. Her niece and nephew love visiting her because her entire basement is covered in gym flooring that they can run around and go crazy on all day long without falling and getting hurt! She thinks it’s important for every child to find an activity that they love and stick to it!


Thank you to everyone who entered our recent giveaway. We have now drawn the winners who each win a Kitchen Seed Sprouter.

The winners are…

1. Paul Sousa

2. Carolyn G

Seed-Sprouter-GiveawayCongratulations!

Each of the winners will be contacted via email.

Look out for our next giveaway coming soon.

 

 

 


 

10 Fruits To Improve Your Health

Image Credit: Nina Matthews

A World Health Organization (WHO) report states that an estimated 2.7 million lives could be saved every year if people include sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables in their lives. A joint FAO/WHO Experts Consultation on Diet, Nutrition and Prevention of Chronic Diseases had recommended minimum 400 gm intake of fruits and vegetables per day in order to prevent chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity. It had suggested that a healthy and regular consumption of fruits and vegetables also prevents and alleviates several micronutrient deficiencies. The committee also recommended that both, fruits and vegetables, should be a part of the average diet of people as it offers combined benefits.

Speaking of fruits, they are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phyto – nutrients. They are low calorie and low fat, but are high a source of simple sugars, fibers, vitamins and minerals. The dietary soluble fiber present in fruits control cholesterol levels, reduce fat and offers relief from constipation. The anti oxidants in fruits work in two ways: firstly they protect the body from stress and diseases like cancer. Secondly they boost our immunity to fight against various illnesses. They protect us from age related complaints like wrinkles, hair fall, memory loss, macular degeneration of retina, Alzheimer, colon cancers, osteoporosis etc.

Anti oxidants also remove free radicals from the body and help us live longer fruitful lives!

Ten Fruits To Begin With

Fruits are either available during specific season or year round. The variety in fruits differs in different parts of the globe. The intake should depend upon the season and availability in that region for maximizing the benefits inherent to fruits.

A simple guideline on which fruit offers what benefit is presented for easy reference. Note that not all fruits are included; the most popular and easily available fruits are discussed:

 

Apple

Apple

1. Apple – The most popular fruit, apple is packed with nutrition to facilitate normal growth and development of human beings.

They are rich in dietary fiber and low on calories. The dietary fiber prevents the body from absorbing LDL (bad cholesterol) and improves HDL (good cholesterol). Vitamin C and beta carotene in apples improves immunity levels to fight against diseases and release the harmful free radicals in the body.

Apple is also a good source of B complex (riboflavin, thiamin and pyridoxine) which, together with enzymes help maintain metabolism and synthetic functions within the body. The small amounts of minerals like potassium, phosphorus and calcium that are an important component of cell and body fluids help control heart rate and blood pressure.

Choose apples that are firm in texture, bright and fresh with rich flavors. They can be served either whole, sliced or as a juice.

They can be accompanied with other fruits as well. However eating apples with skins provide maximum benefits as most of the nutrients are under its skin.

banana

Banana

2. Banana – The fruit that comes in a ‘safety envelope’ is a rich source of energy and is available year round. Though rich in calories, it contains low fat. It is also a source of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. A banana contains simple sugars like fructose and sucrose releasing instant energy thus revitalizing the body. It contains soluble dietary fiber that aids normal bowel movements and offers relief in constipation. It works as an anti ageing agent as it contains flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidant compounds that aid destroying the free radicals within the body. It is also a good source of vitamin B6 which is beneficial for the treatment of neuritis and anemia. Bananas are also rich in vitamin C which boosts the immune system. Bananas help control heart rate and blood pressure as it contains good amount of potassium.

Due to its short life span, bananas should not be stored for long durations. Choose bananas based on the time when you would consume them. The green ones are less ripened and last longer than the yellow and brown spotted ones. Bananas that are perfect to eat are those that are firm, bright yellow in colour and radiate a rich fragrance. Bananas can be had either peeled, mashed, in milkshakes, as fruit salad, or with ice-cream as fritters. Bananas are also cooked as vegetables in South East Asian cuisine.

Blueberries

Blueberries

3. Blueberries – The juicy blueberries are a favorite with children. Part of the ‘berries’ family (strawberry, gooseberry, black currant, cherry, cranberry, raspberry etc), they stand out due to its juicy and blue-purple color.

They comprise of anti oxidants, pro anthocyanidins, vitamins and minerals. Blueberries contain highest value of anti oxidant among fruits, which is derived from poly phenolic anthocyanidin compounds (tannins, myricetin quercetin, chlorogenic acid and kaempferol). These anthocyanins present in all blue-purple colored fruits, offer health benefits like removing free radicals from the body, protecting against cancer, aging and infections.

The chlorogenic acid in berries helps lower blood sugar and control blood glucose levels in type II diabetes. The berries also contain vitamins A, B, C and E to help limit free radicals, metabolize carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, iron and zinc in berries help control heart rate, blood pressure and produce red blood cells.

Blueberries are popular in North American region and widely used as an ingredient for jams, cakes, tarts, muffins, pies and cheese cakes. While choosing the berries check whether they are firm to touch, sweet and juicy. They are best eaten fresh after washing in cold water and lightly patting dry using a moisture absorbent paper/cloth.

4. Dates – Dates are one of the greatest sources of energy. These dessert fruits provide the body with necessary dietary fiber, anti oxidants, minerals & vitamins for growth and development of the body. The sweet tasting dates are rich in dietary fiber that prevent dietary LDL cholesterol absorption and protects the colon mucous membrane by binding to cancer chemicals in the colon. They are a source of energy and instantly revitalize the body as they contain simple sugars like fructose and dextrose. Hence in some countries they are an essential part of breakfast. The anti oxidants like tannins in dates are anti infective, anti inflammatory and anti hemorrhagic. They are also a good source of vitamin A which is essential for maintaining healthy eye sight and offers protection against lung and oral cavity cancer.

The iron content of dates helps increase the hemoglobin in the blood, while minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, copper and magnesium help in development of healthy growth of teeth & bones, aids muscle contraction, blood clotting and formation and nerve impulse conduction. Multivitamins B and K help the body in metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Dates are sweet in taste and can be eaten out of hand, be a part of cuisine such as salad or stuffed with fillings of almonds, walnuts, candied orange and cream cheese. The dry variety is used as a digestive in some cultures or its juice is used as an instant energy drink to replenish the body.

Grapes

Grapes

5. Grapes – Grapes have been a fruit of the royalty since ancient times. Considered the queen of fruits (king of fruits is mango!); it is a veritable source of health benefiting phyto nutrients like poly phenolic antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Available in three species: European, North American and French Hybrids, grapes are now cultivated all over the world in varied forms like the white-green, red-purple and blue-black variety.

The poly phenolic phyto chemical compound resveratrol present in grapes offers protection against colon and prostrate cancers, coronary heart disease, degenerative nerve diseases, Alzheimer, viral and fungal infections. The anthocyanins are anti allergic, anti inflammatory, anti microbial and anti cancerous in nature.

Grapes are also rich sources of minerals like copper, iron and manganese which offer various health benefits. They are low in calorie and a good source of vitamins C, A, K, B-complex and carotenes.

Grapes can be either eaten fresh or raw, as a part of salad, juice, jam or jelly. They should be ripe when they are to be used. The bunch of grapes should be rinsed properly in cold water to remove pesticide and dust residue. Swirl them under water and pat dry before consuming them.

6. Lemon – The zesty lemon is a popular fruit used all over the world for its citrusy juice. Lemons are low calorie and do not contain saturated fats or cholesterol but are rich in dietary fiber. The citric acid which gives it an acidic tinge is a natural preservative that aids digestion and dissolve kidney stones. The ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in lemons is a water soluble antioxidant that helps prevent scurvy, develops immunity and removes harmful free radicals from the blood.They also contain phyto chemicals such as hesperetin and naringenin that work as anti inflammatory, antioxidants and immune system modulators.

Lemons also contain required amounts of minerals like copper, iron, potassium and calcium which help control heart rate and blood pressure. Other biologically active non nutrient compounds like antioxidants, soluble and insoluble dietary fiber found in lemon help reducing the risk for cancers, arthritis, obesity and coronary heart diseases.

Lemons should be bright yellow big, firm, plump and heavy for their size to qualify as useful. The fruit should emit a fresh citrusy aroma after being rolled gently. They can be part of the diet in the form of lemonade juice, salad garnish, cakes, pies, pastry dough, marinades or pickles.

7. Mango – The uniquely flavored dazzling golden fruit mango is truly the king of fruits. Its health promoting qualities have made it one of the must-haves among the super fruits. It is rich in pre biotic dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and poly phenolic flavonoid antioxidant compounds. The vitamin A present in mango is essential for vision and maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. It protects the body from lung and oral cavity cancer. Apart from these, mangoes are a very rich source of potassium which is an important component of cell and body fluids that aid in controlling heart rate and blood pressure. The vitamins B6, C and E helps the body develop resistance against infections, destroys the free radicals, boosts the GABA hormone production in the brain and controls the homocysteine levels in the blood that are harmful to blood vessels leading to stroke or coronary heart disease. The copper content in mango is useful in producing red blood cells.

Mangoes are available during the months of May and June in the Indian subcontinent. They are also available year round but they are the cold storage variety. While buying the fruit, determine the serving size and variety you would like to use. Green mangoes are not fully ripe and can be stored for longer duration while the golden yellow or red yellow colour of mangoes indicates that they are ripe enough to be consumed. Mangoes can be eaten all alone to experience its rich and juicy textured flavors, after washing them under cold running water to remove dust and pesticide residue. Wipe clean using soft cloth. Mangoes are used in juice, fruit salads, ice creams, milk shakes, jams, jellies and candies. The unripe variety is used for preparing pickles, chutneys and curries in Asia.

Oranges

Oranges

8. Orange – Oranges contain essential nutrients, multi vitamins and minerals required to maintain a healthy life. It comes in a variety of forms like tangerines and grape fruits.

Oranges are essentially low in calories and contain no saturated fats or cholesterol. They are rich in dietary fiber, pectin which is a bulk laxative that helps protect the mucous membrane of the colon by removing toxic substances from the body apart from binding to cancer causing chemicals in the colon. It also helps reduce cholesterol levels.

Oranges are also an excellent source of vitamins C, A and B complex. These help the body to become immune to harmful infections, destroy free radicals in the blood, maintain healthy skin and vision, protect from lung and oral cavity cancer. The minerals like potassium and calcium helps control heart rate and blood pressure by countering sodium action within the body.

While buying oranges ensure that they are fresh, show bright colour, are heavy for their size, are devoid of wrinkles on the skin surface and emit sweet tangy aroma. Oranges can be consumed by preparing juice, as an addition to salads, jams, jellies and even as a dried variant in herbal tea.

9. Papaya – This sweet and musky flavored fruit is very low in calories and contains no cholesterol. It is a rich source of phyto nutrients, minerals and vitamins. Papayas contain soluble dietary fiber which aids normal bowel movements thereby offering relief from constipation. The vitamin C present in papaya is a free radicals scavenger, immunity booster and anti inflammatory in nature. It also comprises of Vitamin A and B complex which is helpful in maintain healthy eye sight and protects from lung and oral cavity cancer apart from replenishing the body for maintaining the metabolism rate. Potassium and calcium in papaya help regulate the heart rate and blood pressure. Traditional medicine use papaya and its seed to treat stomach – ache and ring worm infections due to its anti inflammatory, anti parasitic and analgesic properties. Papaya is also known to reduce the bad (LDL) cholesterol levels in a person.

Papayas can be bought ripe or raw depending upon the use. They should be washed gently under running water. The outer layer of the skin and seeds are inedible. The flesh of the papaya can be used as salad or in making juice. It can be eaten on its own as well. Raw papaya is a useful ingredient for making chutneys, soups and curries in Asian cuisine.

10. Watermelon – Watermelon is a great thirst quencher during the topical summers. It is a rich source of antioxidant lycopene and vitamin A. It restores the much needed water and electrolytes during hot summers. Watermelons are low in calories and fat but rich sources of phyto nutrients and antioxidants. The natural anti oxidant vitamin A maintains healthy vision and immunity, protects from lung and oral cavity cancer. The other anti oxidant flavonoids like lycopene, beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin protect the body against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung and pancreatic cancers. The phyto chemicals present in watermelon have the ability to protect cells and other structures in the body from oxygen free radicals and skin damage from UV rays. It also contains vitamin B6 and C, thiamin and manganese that boost immunity and scavenge harmful oxygen free radicals.

In order to check whether the watermelon is fit for consumption, cut a wedge to judge its ripeness and sweetness. Wash the whole melon under cold running water to remove dust and pesticides. The melon can be eaten on its own by cutting cubes, slices or scoops. It can be also consumed in the form of juice/sorbet, fruit cocktail or as a vegetable.

Conclusion-

Include fruits in your regular diet to ensure good health and long life. Fruits are a valuable and natural source of vitamins, minerals and phyto nutrients essential for a fit mind and body. Nutritionists recommend 2 – 3 servings of fresh fruit daily. The servings can comprise of seasonal or regular variety of fruits in any shape size, colour and flavor to get the optimum benefits of the nutrients present in them.

The author believes that ‘health is wealth’. She writes on varied topics that are related to anti-ageing and HGH, Skin and Hair Care, Eating Disorders, Lifestyles etc.

Smiley Fruit at the top of the page:- image credit: Nina Matthews

 

 

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